Can God Get Glory from My Life?
by Dominique Henderson
But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah; and he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. Jonah 1:3
It would seem that Jonah did not yet have the chance to read David’s psalm about God’s omniscience (see Psalm 1039:8). I say that in jest, but God’s presence is everywhere and we are unable to flee from him no matter where we go. So if you are running from him…STOP! What are the benefits of running from God? (That is a trick question, don’t answer.) Let’s look at the story of Jonah this week so we can find out what happens to one that runs from God. Let’s find out what happens when one receives direct instructions from God to do “A” and they decide to do “B”. Let’s find out what happens when we choose to disobey God and worship our own selfish desires? We all have ulterior motives that we serve and we have to walk by the Spirit (daily), so that we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (see Galatians 5:16).
Lesson #1: Obey God the First Time
Jonah had the opportunity to obey the word of the Lord, but he chose not. In verse 3 (see above), the Scripture begins with the word “but”. This is very important because this was the turning point of the story. If we assume that Jonah’s heart was pliable and towards God (at least enough for God to speak directly to him and give him a mission), it immediately turned from God when he decided to disobey. I have heard many a sermon give reasons for Jonah’s disobedience. But I feel Jonah’s reasons are as irrelevant as anyone’s choosing to disobey God. Here is why. In today’s culture, individuals readily justify and defend their actions measuring themselves against a “lowered” standard. Their typical worldview only includes what is convenient for them. Any venture outside of this standard of convenience is explained away. In reality, we should all realize the real standard should be absolute Truth--not moral relativism. You see if I decide to break the speed limit (an absolute standard) to get my pregnant wife to the hospital, then someone else can say they are allowed to break it to get their kid to school or get to work on time. Then you multiply this a couple times over and you get a society that believes that they can interpret the speed limit as they wish. Essentially they are saying, the speed limit (law) is subjective (to my specific circumstance) and not an absolute. Can this logic work? No. If the speed limit begins to be broken at will, there will be an increased risk and occurrence of traffic accidents. I believe the same is true for any other absolute. The problem is that there is an increasing number of people (saved and unsaved) that believe they can make up rules as they go if the absolute does not fit their circumstance them. (Getting back to the subject,) this is what Jonah did. He relaxed God’s standard to fit his own.
Lesson #2: My Disobedience Affects Others
Here is another classic problem stemming from disobedience. Often an individual feels that they sin in a vacuum. That is, no one is affected by the consequence of their actions. This is birthed from the notion that it is my life and no one else’s. But we can see from the text, Jonah put the lives of others in danger once he disobeyed. I think it is immediately evident that he endangered the men on the ship as the storm came (see Jonah 1:4-17), but what about the great city of Nineveh? The Bible says that there were more than 120,000 that came to repentance as a result of Jonah’s “delayed" obedience. Had Jonah chose never to obey; God’s wrath would have consumed that city of 120,000 individuals! Revisiting the speed limit analogy, if I break the speed limit and am involved in an accident the probability that I hurt someone else is greater than zero. Jonah’s disobedience affected more than himself, just as mine or yours would. So there is no real argument that I can sin in a vacuum.
Lesson #3: God’s Will is Better than Mine
This lesson is self-proving. There is no mind higher than the mind of God. There is no plan more perfect that his. There is no motive that is purer than his. So I can give up any notion of ever replacing HIS will with my own. As I become more and more molded in the image of Christ, I will have my character changed and I can rely on the Holy Spirit to direct me. But I, as a person, can never think that I am capable of making that type of decision on my own. My mandate is obedience to God—not my flesh. Jonah realized this the hard way. I believe he had some time to really think while in the belly of the fish. It could be that he had what we call an “ah-hah” moment. There he was able to reflect on God’s all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present nature. This is always a good practice to engage in after we have disobeyed God. The repentance of Jonah gave him his deliverance (see Jonah 2). After he was delivered, God gave him his mission back. Talking about a God of a second chance! God does not desire for us to wallow in our mess-ups—we do that. He is always waiting for us to come to him and just go back to getting his will accomplished. He does not want us to do some type of penance for our sin. Jesus paid all that we would ever owe to him. For us to try and put our efforts on top of his is ludicrous. God just wants us to follow his will for our lives so that we can enjoy the fullness of what Jesus died to give us.
There is an end to this story that is not ideal, but realistic. The book of Jonah ends with his unwillingness to accept God’s plan as best (see Jonah 4:1-11). A lot of the time this is the situation we find ourselves in. We obey the will of God even if we do not want to and we are dissatisfied with the result. This is when we need to trust the sovereignty of the Almighty. He does have a perfect plan for our lives that we must end up trusting and not running from….stop running my friend and trust him.
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